What time is it, kids? It's Howdy Doody time!
Back we go to the early days of television, where we encounter another of the legendary kids' programs, The Howdy Doody Show, the first nationally televised American children's TV program.
This program is probably my earliest TV memory. Though such a program would never survive today, 60+ years ago we kids all thought it was fantastic. From the IMDb:
I can't say that I have ever seen such a quality children's program. Maybe this is because Bob Smith & Co. were trained in radio and live television back in the 1940's, but there was something authentic about their performances. Their diction, their facial expressions, their chemistry, and their interaction with the kids... And then the story lines were not bad either. Plus, after seeing the live commercials, we all craved Wonder bread.
All you have to do is compare their work product against any children's show today and you will see what I mean. They had a connection with the audience--something the Power Rangers don't have. Frankly, I feel sad for my son's generation, because there is nothing so real on television for him to stimulate his curiosity and imagination today. Instead of finding role models like Buffalo Bob on TV, all he has are impersonal and violent cartoons.
I fondly remember the antics of Clarabell the Clown (played initially by Bob Keeshan, who later became Captain Kangaroo), Buffalo Bob, Chief Thunderthud, Princess Summerfall Winterspring, and other of the ensemble characters. I can't believe how the plugs they did for their sponsors, like Halo Shampoo or Three Muskateeres candy bar, were worked into an audience-participation thing. It's so different from what we've known the last 60 years. Instead of cutting away to a commercial, they plugged the products as part of the show. Speaking of participation, I had also forgotten exactly how young the audience - the famous "Peanut Gallery" - was, the kids all looking about five years old. This was definitely a show for very young kids.
YouTube offers many if not all episodes and I have embedded a couple of the early ones below, followed by the last full episode of 1960, wherein we see Clarabell speaking - finally - and crying as he says goodbye to the kids. This was traumatic stuff for a child to see 59 years ago.
Parents - these videos are all SAFE for young children to watch unattended.